Paul Messenger – A Family Holiday To The French Caribbean Sparked A New Business


Well, I spent five years or thereabouts, travelling around the country from West Australian goldfields, the Tanami Desert in the top end, Outback Queensland, and in the wilds of Borneo. I spent a lot of time around Outback remote places, places that most people would never go to. It was a great experience and I spent 25 years doing that, but eventually, it got to the point where I was ready for change. And 10 years or more later here we are.

Oprah once quoted ‘You’ve got to follow your passion – You’ve got to figure out what it is you love – who you really are. And have the courage to do that. I believe that the only courage anybody ever needs is the courage to follow your own dreams.” Please share, how you had the courage to follow your own dreams.
Tell us what the word “Entrepreneur” means to you?
You got to have a bit of entrepreneurial flair. You got to be a risk taker. And I certainly tick those boxes. I was a geologist, I was an exploration and in the later years, I actually invested in my own projects as well. So these are high risk ventures in the middle of the desert, looking for gold and other minerals. And so you have to have that sort of that kind of character, I suppose.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learned from being an entrepreneur?

Obviously a lot of things. I think people that have a goare underappreciated. And it’s a lot of hard work to do something like this. It takes obsessive people to really move society, to discover things or invent things. I think those sorts of people are important. I take my hat off and there’s plenty of them out there. They don’t always get a fair shake.

What inspired you to start your own business, and how did you go about identifying a need in the market that your business could address?
I had an idea and I sort of got this idea years earlier. We were in Melbourne at the time, and I was working. I had projects in the WA Goldfields and I was flying over there and read a story about a bloke in Tasmania who lobbied the government to change the Excise Act which allowed small distilleries to operate legally. And I was reading all this and thought that’s a pretty good idea, especially making whiskey in Tasmania – it made a lot of sense to me.
We went down to Tassie and found this place and it was exceptionally good. I watched their succession. I became busy with family and career but eventually, in 2009, the family on a cruise to the Caribbean.
We were roaming the Caribbean and so that’s where I really got to know the depth, diversity and vibrant sort of culture around rum in the Caribbean and all the different types and styles and eventually ended up in Martinique and tried these Agricole rums which are French style rums and just thought it was very different to what I was used to.
I grew up in Bundaberg Rum and Beenleigh Rum, they were the only two rums I knew apart from Bacardi. I didn’t really drink any of them but what we saw there (in Martinique) was there were hundreds of different types of rums and different brands and different styles.
We had a 20-year-old tropical-aged rum that was better than any cognac or whiskey that I’ve ever tried and I thought this is a bit different. I didn’t expect this. And we also tried it served up as a Ti Punch which is a white unaged rum and again, I’ve never tasted anything like this. So I had this idea that it was a wonderful opportunity to come back home as I knew this part of the world pretty well and I thought there was a lot of sugar cane, why aren’t there any people doing this? And then thought about it for two years.
Eventually, I said well, let’s have a crack. We also make gin because the style of rum we make is seasonal. So we actually do make some syrup on now we make that out of season because you can store syrup but when we started it was all juice. And we thought well, we’ve got all this gear sitting here, we need to use it.
So we needed to find another product to make out of seasons and at the time all the rums were in barrels, so it would be years before we were going to get cash flow. I thought well that’s we need to make either a vodka or gin because they’re pretty easy to make. So we thought about a whole heap but again, it has to be different. The style of rum we were doing was very different to anything else that was on the market here at the time. And that’s what I thought was important – that point of difference. Otherwise, why would anyone want to buy rum or gin?
There’s plenty of good rums and gins out there already. So we looked around the world and all sorts of traditional botanicals. You’re always looking for a new flavour and we have obviously had some interesting local natives. Then I discovered this drink in Thailand, which was this blue drink. It was sweet and it had lots of ice so it was a cool refreshing drink but they squeezed a bit of lime in it, it changed colour. I thought gee, that’s that’s unbelievable, so I thought if I could you use that as a botanical in a gin? So I got on Google, I bought a brought five seeds, for five bucks and planted them.
This is a business back in 2011. I cut off those flowers, harvested them then tried them all out. And then started playing around with vodkas and gins and all sorts of things. I understood the concept of acid-base indicator which is what type of flower is and if the pH in solution goes below four, it changes colour from blue to pink. And so I didn’t realise at the time but soda water is acidic, and it changed to this unbelievable colour, it’s bright, sparkling and crystal clear and just wonderful. And so I thought, well, that’s a match made in heaven.
I spent the next three years working out a gin recipe and that would be stable with the flower and it wouldn’t change the pH in the bottle and add some shelf life.
By 2015 we released the world’s first colour-changing gin. That year we picked up the Australian drinks Industry Award for Best Innovation spirits and we also got the New South Wales Business Chamber Excellence in Innovation
What is your favourite quote about “following your dreams”?

I don’t even really know what that means to be honest. I think dreams are dreams. That’s a bit too esoteric for me. I’m more, feet in the sand, hands in the soil, dirty hands kind of guy. We’ve been fortunate for a number of reasons but primarily for the success of our gin that’s enabled us to do this plus a supportive wife and family and quite talented people around me. We’ve been able to do a lot of work without the prospect of getting a return for years. We’re preparing a paddock, it won’t be planted until later this year and won’t have a crop to harvest until next year. And then we’ll be doing a lot more work and putting a lot more of ourselves into it and then we’ll end up with a heap of barrels and we’ll put in a barrel house and I sit there for the next X number of years. So I think from my point of view, if something’s worth doing that, then don’t take shortcuts. It’s always worth doing too well. And might be good or bad, but at least you’re getting a good red hot crack.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?

A lot of patience. They need to be open minded about how things may or may not turn out, have a good plan. Work hard. Persevere…all the usual things. Nothing comes cheap. Have a good plan, have a good idea. Start with plan it carefully. Work hard and persevere. And maybe it might pay off, but there’s no guarantees.

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